Made In The USA gear

Reconsidering the “Made in the USA” as a factor for buying outdoor goods.

Growing up, my Dad stressed trying to buy Made In The USA products.  Dad is that increasingly rare person in America: A skilled tradesperson who actually MADE things for a living.

Not long after he immigrated here, my  great-grandfather helped build an iconic building in Providence. My grandfather worked on another iconic Rhode Island landmark and is something I’ve driven on countless times.  And  Dad helped construct vessels that are patrolling the ocean as I type.   (Me? Like many people of my generation, I have some job that is broken down ultimately into a series of 0s and 1s..but I digress. )

The beautiful and iconic Newport Bridge in Naragansett bay. Something my grandfather helped build before he retired.

Somehow I don’t think the legacy of my career will be as inspiring. Just sayin’ 🙂

What this long history of skilled tradespeople in my family meant was having a pride in craftmanship.  A pride of seeing something built, made and being done well. Perhaps it is a cliché, but there is something satisfying knowing that your own hands and skill are able to create something tangible, useful and lasting.

I do not think my dirt bagger stove platform falls into “Pride in Craftmasnhip” category for some reason…

Along with this pride in craftsmanship, a pride in US manufacturing was emphasized.  Try to buy Made in the USA whenever we could. Support our country’s manufacturing base.

Now, since I’ve left my home and moved to Colorado, I must confess that that I’ve moved a little bit away from this ethos that I grew up with.  a past partner and I own a (used) Kia and I long ago stopped looking at labels to see where the clothing was made.  Any other manufactured goods? I just picked up without thinking about where they came from.

But then Dad joined Facebook.  Photos of his garden were seen  (something in the Italian DNA compels some of us to plant tomatoes and flowers! 🙂 ), updates about visiting the granddaughter were shared and more links were shared about something I had almost forgotten: Buy Made In The USA labeled goods.

Now, when I buy gear, the MADE IN THE USA label is not the only factor by any means of where I will put my dollars. Sometimes there is simply no equivalent (backcountry ski or climbing gear in many cases) or the item I want that fits my needs the most just happens to be made elsewhere. But considering a Made in the USA product is now a factor when it comes to my purchasing decisions.  Something that can help narrow my choices down.

Why?

  • Because it is good to support our own manufacturing base and keep the money a little more local
  • At least when it comes to outdoor gear, the items are often not mass produced and tend to be of high quality
  • There is saying that “you vote with your dollars”. Buy buying something American made, I vote to help keep a smaller company in business
  • Simply because the American made gear or clothing happens to the be best fit for my budget, desired functionality and goals when going outdoors

Seeing if goods are American made or not will not be the deciding factor my purchases. But no one factor is.  It will be a factor though, going forward.  If it is a choice between two items that are otherwise equivalent, the American made product will get my vote (money).

So considering buying American made if you can.   It’s a good thing to do.

Here’s a list of outdoor gear, clothing or products I own that are American made. As I compiled the list, it illustrated to me that there are more choices for American made gear than most people realize (myself included!) Just means I’ll have to pay more attention when making future purchases. 

GEAR COMPANY NOTES
‘biners, climbing skins Black Diamond Equipment Equipment to scaled the mountain be it snow or rock.
Merino wool socks Kirkland (Costco) These Costco house brand merino wool socks are very similar to the Smartwool hiking socks. At 4 for $13, quite the bargain too.
Z-Lite Cascade Designs A long time in use, classic design that is my pad of choice for shoulder season or social backpacks.
Neo Air Cascade Deisgns a past partner’s pad of choice!
Boonie Hat Various contractors Many of the classic hats are made in the U.S.  Mine is by R&B designs.
Nalegene Cantene Nalgene Another classic that I have used for countless trips over the years,
Surplus Wool glove liners Rotcho Use in all four seasons.
ULA Catalyst ULA Equipment LTD.  Study, well made lightweight packs.
Sierra Sniveller Quilt Jacks ‘R’ Better Well made and constructed quilt for three-season backpacking.
Feathered Friends Hummingbird Feathered Friends I bought mine back in 1997 and it is still going strong (if not as true to its temp rating after many miles!) As a note, the FF bags are made in the US, but their down garments no longer are.
Various mitts and socks Fox River Mills All made in the US. Their double ragg wool mitt is uber-warm!
Various socks WigWam I’ve used their liner socks and ragg wool socks for ski touring for quite a while now.
Sno-Seal Atsko Old school and effective leather treatment
P-38/P-51 can opener Various Light, effective, versatile. “Quite possible the greatest invention the Army ever made”. I do not bring canned goods, but found many uses for this tool over the years.
Fleece hood Various The military issue ones are US made (at least that’s what the label said! 🙂 ). Another verstatile piece of gear. a past partner and I made great use of it in Chaco Canyon duiring a very cold time there.
ECWCS long underwear Various Military issue, heavy weight underwear. Use them more for basecamping..but very warm and not terribly expensive.
Easy Gaiters II Log House Designs The absolute best pair of gaiters I’ve used for ski touring
7/11 Mug Who knows? Well worn coffee mug I take with me on some backpacking trips. The label does say MADE IN THE USA on the plastic lid. lightweight, functional and came with a coffee refill!  A dirt bagger favorite! 🙂

 

 

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3 Replies to “Made In The USA gear”

  1. Interesting observations. I’ve noticed an increasing trend in product labeling, particularly in the outdoor apparel industry, to tag products as having been “designed in USA.” Typically the labeling includes the iconic American flag logo that the consumer has come to associate with “Made in USA.” But of course the two are not equivalent. Look more closely and you’ll usually find that the items were manufactured in Asia or Latin America. Nothing new there, and of course nothing new to the idea of stateside design either – there are plenty of talented designers withheld and well-paid by American companies who appreciate the ease of developing and/or modifying designs in-house, rather than delegating that responsibility to an outside entity. But it’s just not in the same league as crafting and finishing a product exclusively in the country of origin. Of course it’s all about managing the bottom line, and hoping the consumer pays more attention to the price tag than the label tags

    • ..and my reply:

      Indeed. Looks at Apple. Their label says “Designed in the US”.

      Having said that, there is something about knowing that something was designed and built in the country. Supporting local when you can.

      In the past year or so, buying Made In the USA has, again, become a factor in my purchases. For example, we paid a little more money today for china (ha! :D) made in the US. But, it is lead free, was on sale and should last a long time.

      Anyway, just some food for thought.

      Thanks for the kind words.

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